Day 351 and Day 352 – Oops

EDITOR’S NOTE

If you have been keeping score, I goofed up on my tally. More on this in my next post. but if you were following along by the date, please note that my count was off by two. I had doubled up on two previous days. I’m adding this note for posterity and to catch up, but know that even though the dates were wrong, I have celebrated for 352 straight days up to this point. I just can’t keep score.

 

Day 353 – National Hot Dog Day

Hold the phone! Here I was sitting back on my laurels and celebrating the accomplishment of my 350th day of this quest when it dawned on me that something was awry. If yesterday was Day 350, that would mean there would be 15 days left of this quest. I started all this last year on August 1st. Fifteen days from yesterday would take us to August 2nd. That doesn’t sound right. What happened? How’d I lose a day? Someone call Neil deGrasse Tyson – we lost about 48 hours on our last trip around the sun.

At the very least, I knew I had celebrated every day for the last 350 days. I knew there was not one day that I didn’t so something celebratory. That was not the issue. The issue was a math problem or a posting problem. I had to go back and figure out what happened. Luckily I title my posts by day (Day 1, Day 2, etc.) so looking back would be a matter of just checking each day. The bad news meant that I’d have to go back 350 days. But I found the issue. Actually I found two issues. On two occasions, I titled the post the same number. I called both “National Milk Day” and “National Curried Chicken Day” Day 164 and I called both “National Oatmeal Cookie Day” and “National Shrimp Scampi Day” Day 271.   I essentially numbered them wrong which means I am two days off. Today is actually Day 353 of my quest which means I am right on pace to finish a full 365 days on July 31st.   I could go back and fix all the dates, but that means I’d have to edit almost 200 pages. I am not sure I have time for that. I’ll just jump to Day 353. Days 351 and 352 will be noted as “oops.” So the tally was off, but the celebration was steady as she goes.

Day 353 was National Hot Dog Day and a it was a day that saw lots of trending on social media. I just wasn’t feeling it. I can say that if this day occurred 352 days ago, I would have been excited about the prospect of a whole day devoted to Hot Dogs. I would have had Hot Dogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would have hunted down the Oscar Mayer Weiner Wagon and hijacked it. I would have flown to Milwaukee and ran against the Hot Dog in the sausage race at Miller Stadium (bucket list). But it was hard to drum up the same kind of enthusiasm for today. Hot dogs didn’t have the same kind of allure. I had just eaten hot dogs on this quest last week, although they were despicably drenched in beans. I’ve also eaten hot dogs as a regular meal in the last few weeks. It’s a summer staple. Hot dogs today felt like no big deal. I like hot dogs. I do. I just didn’t have the energy to make it a super-big celebration. If you were hoping I would go big here – like trying to topple Joey Chestnut’s hot dog eating record – you’ll be disappointed.

Hot dogs are over 500 years old (in general, not the one you just picked up at 7-11), although sausages have been around since as far back as the 9th century BC. The “dachshund” or “little-dog” sausage – as they were known – began in Frankfurt, Germany in 1487. The people in Vienna dispute that. They say that the hot dog comes from their city (Vienna is called “Wien” in Austria – hence the term “wiener”). We’ll never really know the truth. What came to America was probably an amalgamation of both the German and Austrian versions. The year 1893 is an important date in Hot Dog history. That was the year of the Chicago World Fair and it is where the immense crowds that flocked to the fair were first introduced to the joy of the hot dog. Also that same year, the folks in St. Louis first started serving up hot dogs at baseball games. Those two events helped the hot dog take off in popularity. Pretty soon hot dogs were everywhere in America and Americans were eating them up. (Info from the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council who I would like to officially represent me for all legal matters moving forward).

Last week when I was driving home from work I had to stop and pick up something at Staples. I did a quick Google search and found that the closet Staples to my location was in Cranston. It was only about ten minutes away but it took me home in a different direction than I usually go. That meant that I got to enjoy the scenic splendor of Route 2 on my way home. As I was driving, I happened to drive past a restaurant that is a bit of a Rhode Island institution. It’s not the original location, that’s in Providence, but it is one of two locations in the entire world. That place is called Olneyville’s New York System. When I saw it on my drive I let out an audible gasp. I had heard about this place for so long and there it was. I didn’t stop. I drove on by, but I filed its location in my mind just in case I would ever need to go back. Then came National Hot Dog Day. It seemed like this would be the perfect place to celebrate the Hot Dog, especially as a Rhode Islander. When I got out of work today, I headed back down Route 2 and this time, I made my virgin stop at Olneyville.

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Not that you would think it would be, but it’s not very glamorous inside. This location has been around since 1981 and that may have been the last time they redecorated. But there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a hot dog stand. You shouldn’t expect glamour. When you walk in there is a section to your left that has two sections of tables and booths plus a row of stools at a counter just like any fast food restaurant from the eighties would have. To the right was the pick-up counter and you place your order at the the far right of the countertop. There are a few other options on the menu like hamburgers, fries, etc., but the star is undeniably the Hot Wiener. Yep, that’s what they call it. You have to ask the man behind the counter for a hot wiener. It’s really just a hot dog, they just call it a hot wiener. But the trick is that you have to have it All The Way. That’s the real tradition. All the Way is in a steamed bun topped with mustard, raw onions and their wiener sauce. I didn’t know this and so when I went to the counter I had to have that awkward moment of being a newbie and asking the clerk how this all works. He told me matter of factly. I decided to have one there and then bring a couple home so Lola could try. However I couldn’t go All The Way. I don’t do mustard, especially when they slather it on and I watched them put it on. They slather it. No thank you. I paid – the three dogs and a soda was about $11. They were ready in minutes.

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I like the fact that they are just normal sized hot dogs. They weren’t foot-long or super, super plump. They were just hot dogs. They say they use natural casings which I guess is special and the wieners, when in raw form, are all part of one big rope of wiener which they then cut to order (which is why the ends look like they do above). They had the wieners chilling on the flattop in a very low thin layer of liquid. That’s where they rested until an order came in and although I couldn’t see how they finished them up, my best guess was that they would finish them on a different section of the flattop where they could get more heat. So they are partly steamed and partly grilled. They were good tasting too. The casings gave each bite a snap when you bit down and they had a nice beefy flavor. The bun was perfect too – nice and soft and most capable of soaking in the cacophony of flavors stuffed inside. The onions were spot on. I am a huge fan of diced onions on a hot dog (or a wiener). It was something I discovered not too long ago and once I tasted it, I was hooked. Here they worked particularly well with the beef.

The beef sauce (or wiener sauce as they call it) is the key to it all. Its a combination of beef sautéed in their special seasonings and some soybean oil. They sell their seasonings and they give you the recipe on their website if you are interested. The seasonings are a secret of course but it’s basically a combination of cumin, paprika, chili powder, and allspice. The beef was good and flavorful. It was all good, but to be honest, it wasn’t the best I had ever had. I know that the mustard would have actually added a lot to the overall flavor so my judgement is not complete, but I guess it just wasn’t my preference. My ideal hot dog is sliced in half and grilled with ketchup, onions and pickles. I know – I’m not normal. But I am glad I tried a NY System. But in the end, it wasn’t the life-changing wiener experience I had hoped for today.

The worst part kicked in on my way home. They stunk. I was in our Jeep which is sans air conditioner right now, so I drive home from Cranston in the 90 degree heat with just me and this bag of wieners. I felt like the smell just seeped into everyone of my pores. I tasted it still lingering in my mouth. I felt it in my hair. When I got home, Lola accused me of having an odor but then we realized it was just the wieners. I took them outside and that’s where Lola tasted hers, but the smell was still trapped inside my nostrils. It was like the BO trapped in the car on Seinfeld. I eventually took the remains and wrappers right outside to the garbage can because I couldn’t be around it any more. Maybe it was just greasy food and I was sensitive, but it kind of spoiled the experience for me.

It was still a good wiener though and I am happy that I finally got to taste one. That was on my list of things to do in Rhode Island. It really is a famous thing around here. I could see it being awesome after you get out of the bars on a Saturday night and maybe that’s where they started becoming famous. I went All the Way, almost, so now I can say I am a Rhode Islander. I think all Islanders should try it at some point, just like they should try Del’s and Coffee Milk. This little state has a lot of great traditions and that’s what I celebrated today. That’s what a hot dog is where I live and that’s how I did National Hot Dog Day. Not bad for Day 353, right?

Next up: National Lollipop Day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 350 – National Sour Candy Day

When it comes to sour candy, I feel that my generation grew up just before the great sour candy craze hit the candy stores. It became a thing just as I was graduating into that age group where you no longer live for the thrill of candy. In my generation, the greatest developments in the candy aisle were things like Skittles, Starbursts, Whatchamacallits and Twix bars. Sweet was still the flavor of choice back then and still my choice today. There were always sour candies available to us. Lemonheads come to mind as that old fashioned candy that brought you the tart and sour delight of lemons mixed with some sugar to bring the balance, but they weren’t all that common. Then of course there are SweetTarts which tout their sweet and sour combo right in the name. I liked those, especially the big ones. But no sour product on the market had the full swing of the marketing push that came with the introduction of the big boys of sour candy. This was a whole new breed. Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, Sour Belts – all these came to market just after my candy years had expired. Consequently I’ve never craved sour candy all that much.

But this next generation, they dig the sour. I can picture watching almost all my nieces and nephews sucking on lemons at some point in their life because they liked the taste. Something has changed in the palate with these young whippersnappers. Lola is a sour candy generation kid. She has a huge fondness for sour belts – one of her favorites. In fact, whenever we are in a candy store, she seeks them out. It brings her back to her youth where she would buy them up the street at a baseball card shop and savor them back at her house. It’s one of her indulgences that’s fun to see. When she gets a supply, she will keep them in their little bag and will still savor them throughout the week. She’s a bit of a fanatic if not a connoisseur. She knows what a true sour belt should taste like, she knows what a wannabe looks like and she doesn’t mess around. She’s a purist.

There’s not much you can do with sour candy other than eat it. There aren’t any recipes that use sour candy as an ingredient (outside of the occasional decorative addition to a cake or cookie). I knew that meant that to celebrate today, I would just have to go out and get sour candy. Maybe because I am in a reflective mood lately, that made me realize some of the ridiculousness this quest brings to our life. The absurdity of trying to make it happen. I got home from work around 5:30 and at the same time, Lola was coming back from Newport after an array of meetings. Really big stuff. When she got home, we decided to debrief on our deck with a beer and a glass of wine. There was lots to discuss, all hopeful good stuff, but just things to go over. We sat there talking and munching on some pretzel chips and bruschetta as a little snack (not a bad combo). We spent the next hour or so touching base. Afterwards, Lola had some follow up work to do, so I told her that I just had to run up the street and get some candy.

That’s the absurdity of this quest-living life. I actually said those words: “I just have to go and get some candy.” A 48 year old man just said that to his wife. We hadn’t even had dinner and I was going out for candy. Sour candy at that. It’s a strange world I’ve created. I figured that while I was going out, I should probably get something for dinner too. We weren’t all that hungry after the bruschetta, but some protein might not be the worse idea. I decided to order sandwiches which I called in on my way to the Dollar General where I was making my candy run. The Dollar General had plenty of sour candy options. Sour candy always has loud packaging. They can’t just give you sour – they have to shout it at you. We’re sour! We’re cool! Ugh. I perused the options. Sour Patch Kids seemed like the obvious choice – the originals and leaders. But then there were Sour Skittles too. I was intrigued. In the end though I went with two options. My first pick was Haribo Sour Gummi Bears. One of the other candies that Lola has an affinity for is Haribo Gummi Bears who are probably the worldwide leader in anything gummy. I figured that if they were making a sour product, then their seal of approval meant quality. I picked up a bag. Then I went with one of those old school sour candies: Cherry Sours. These were candies that they probably sold at Old Man Gower’s store in Bedford Falls, so they were a bit of a candy antique. For some reason, they intrigued me more than the over-the-top, yelling-at-me sour candies of today. They were beautifully red and shiny. Those were my second and last selection.

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I still had time for the sandwiches to be ready so while I was waiting in my car, I busted open the cherry sours. I thought these might have that old fashioned taste to them (meaning old and dusty) but actually, I was pleasantly surprised. They were super fresh and nice and chewy. They had big cherry flavor and just enough subtle hints of tartness to make them sour. You could eat a bunch and not pucker in dismay. I hope the folks at the pizza shop weren’t watching this because they would have seen this strange guy alone in his car shoveling candy into his mouth and then adjusting quickly to go pick up sandwiches. Not a finer moment of mine, but all for the quest. I was really surprised at how good the cherry sours were and I probably had a smile of delight on my face when I walked inside. I should have shared with the folks in the pizza shop, but that’s always an awkward convo and seems kind of creepy in that candy from strangers way. No, I’d keep my sour candy binge to myself.

When I got home, Lola was on the phone with her besties at the bank, so I put her sandwich on a plate and then placed it next to her in reach in case she wanted some sustenance while on the call. I went into the other room and enjoyed my sandwich. When Lola got off the phone, we decided that the rest of the night should be just for relaxing, although it’s hard to turn your brain off just like that. We finished up dinner and then chilled. That’s when I busted open the gummy bears. Lola wasn’t all that interested in anything sour or sweet at the moment. I don’t blame her and hopefully she can taste some tomorrow for an afternoon sugar rush. However I felt it was my duty, so I grabbed a handful of bears. The best thing about a Haribo product is the freshness. Their candy is always soft and fresh from the package, as if it was just made. The flavor is always great too and you can taste the difference in each color of bear. The sour element was present  but again not overpowering. I didn’t want that Warhead make-you-cry taste. I wanted to enjoy sour for what it should be on the tongue, and the gummy bears delivered. All in all, these were pretty good candy choices. Maybe these young kids are right about this sour thing.

When a day comes along that’s just about a type of candy, it’s never easy to celebrate, especially when it’s not a candy I always reach for. However today I learned to enjoy two new treats. Maybe I could enjoy them because my palate has changed over the last year. I have a little more appreciation for how a food reaches the different taste buds in my mouth. I could enjoy the candy for it’s core appeal – sour and sweet together. Actually, who ever though of making that combo into a candy was pretty smart. It’s like the person who thought about adding salt to caramel. Our tongue likes to experience all the flavors and the combination, so I should consider what is being presented to my tastebuds in whatever I eat. This ended up being a pretty good night of celebration. I guess I should go on candy runs more often.

Next up: National Hot Dog Day 

Day 349 – National Peach Ice Cream Day

I can’t say that I’ve ever had peach ice cream but I’ve definitely had peaches and I’ve certainly had my fair share of ice cream, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect with today’s celebration. My vision was somewhat similar to strawberry ice cream where it would be a yellowish shade in color, reflective of the color of the fruit, and there would be chunks of peaches mixed in throughout the ice cream. Big goobers of slightly icy, gelatinous chunks of the famed summer fruit in every bite. I figured the peaches would taste similar to the flavor of canned peaches – sweet, delicious but different from the sweetness of a perfectly ripened fresh peach. That was my expectation so I wasn’t all that excited about what was coming.  It was an ice cream flavor I likely would never reach for. At best, my excitement level for today’s celebration was a Meh.

I tried to think about what the best course of action would be to get my celebration in. I toyed with the idea of taking the ol’ lady out for some ice cream on a warm summer night. It was a good night for it – still very warm, very little breeze. My concern however was that we would go to a spot and they might not have peach ice cream. I couldn’t be sure. You’d be surprised at how little information about available flavors you can find online. Ice cream places have yet to fully embrace the convenience of sharing information like that on the web.  Peach didn’t seem like an uncommon flavor, so it was definitely a possibility that they would carry it. On the other hand, it’s not really a flavor you would consider a must-have. It would be a crapshoot and the uncertainty of it made going out less and less appealing. The ol’ lady would have to be ok with some from the store. So on my way home from work I stopped at Clements to pick up a tub of peach ice cream.  That’s when this whole celebration almost came to a screeching halt.

When I got to Clements, I walked right to their freezer section and that’s where I noticed they were in the midst of some type of chicanery. All the pints of ice cream had been taken out of the freezer and lined up in shopping carts.  ALL the ice cream. All I saw was a row of empty cooler shelves, a train of shopping carts filled with ice cream and two teenage stock clerks who seemed to be behind it all. Panic set in. I thought for a brief moment that maybe someone was actually buying all the ice cream. I had to meet this guy. Did he pull a Harry Potter and just walk in with his bag of galleons and proudly declare “I’ll take the lot!”? Then I realized that the stock clerks were just rearranging things. This was good news for the long run of future ice cream purchases at Clements, but for now, on National Peach Ice Cream Day, it was not ideal. My stash of peach ice cream was somewhere in one of those carts. I was going to knock them over and go on a searching frenzy, but instead I just asked if either one of the stock clerks had seen any peach ice cream in the carts. They had not that they remembered. but one of them said they think Warwick Ice Cream sold a peach ice cream and that the Warwick Ice Cream was still at the end of the aisle in their own undisrupted bin. This news was helpful. I walked down to that section and within thirty seconds I saw my white whale: Summer Peach Ice Cream.

When I got home I decided to mow the lawn because it was ready for it and I hadn’t had the chance to get out there. When you have the time and energy, mowing the lawn can be almost enjoyable. It’s exercise, at least when I use the walk-behind mower, and it’s also a good time for reflection as you get lost in thought. I usually put my headphones in and play Pandora on shuffle and tonight, the DJ was doing a particularly good job at mixing up the playlist. While I was outside, I also changed the oil on the mower tonight. That hadn’t been changed since early last year, so it was due. I was pretty proud of myself though because this was the first time that I actually did an oil change by myself (I’m not the most mechanically inclined). But it needed it, so I did it. Mission accomplished. Then after I dumped the old oil into the Sakonnet, I went back to mowing the lawn. It was tough work, going up and down the yard but fulfilling and I ended up working up a bit of a sweat and an appetite by the time I was done. I finished up about 7:45, just as the sun was starting to sink on the horizon. I showered, made a quick dinner and then relaxed on the couch with Lola for a bit in front of a fan. Then it was time for ice cream. I scooped some into bowls and served with a spoon. Nothing fancy here – no syrups, no cookies, no whipped cream – just straight up peach ice cream.

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The packaging of Warwick Ice Cream is pleasing to me. It’s simple. The ice cream comes in round half gallon containers which remind me of ice cream from long ago (before they started putting pictures and fancy images on the labels). It’s a throwback to the company’s roots which began as a dairy farm in Warwick, RI in the 1930s. The founder, Charlie Bucci, had four sons and a daughter. The three eldest sons were deaf and because employment and education was not readily available for the impaired, Charlie decided to teach his sons the family business. With the family all working hard, they were able to open a little store front on the dairy farm and started offering fresh ice cream to their customers. By 1940, the company had evolved into a full-service ice cream parlor and restaurant operation. It has been run as a family operation ever since. I never knew much about the brand until Clements started carrying their ice cream in a pretty prominent spot. I have had some flavors before so I knew they made quality products.

About two or three bites into the ice cream, Lola stated quite matter-of-factly that she thinks she just found her new favorite ice cream. I chuckled at that, but then I realized she was kind of right. This ice cream was good. In fact it was great. It was almost the perfect balance of flavor. It had a slight bit of tartness from the peaches and that was incredibly well balanced against the creamy, sweetness of the ice cream. It was the taste of peaches and cream in a single frozen bite. There were no chunks of peaches mixed in (which I liked) – it was just a really smooth and creamy combination with great peach flavor (but not overly peachy – and not artificial peach flavor either). I kind of couldn’t believe how much I liked it. I wasn’t at all looking forward to tasting this, but the ice cream just took over my taste buds and brought them to a place of joy.  There’s still magic to be found in the ice cream aisle.

Today I got a message from WordPress, the website that hosts this blog. The message said that it has been exactly one year since I signed up for their services. It was my anniversary. That was my first real reminder that the end of my year long quest is slowly approaching. It was last July that this silly idea for a blog had come to me. I let it simmer in the chasms of my brain for a few days and then that one day, exactly 365 days from today, I decided to take a baby step towards making that crazy idea a reality. That first day was just a beginning. There was no content. No real scope of what it would look like or what it would take. I didn’t even know what I wanted to call it. I just wanted to nurture the idea and see if it could grow. I was just investigating but suddenly, deep in the endless maze of unpublished pages, I was there. I kept it secret from everyone – even Lola. A few days later, I would write my first post. A few days after that, I would make my first raspberry cream pie. It was a year I don’t think I could have ever been ready for and in truth, I’m still not ready. But it’s been a journey for sure. More to come on all this reflection over the next few weeks, but the end is near my friends. Or is it?

How about that peach ice cream? An unheralded little hero of the ice cream world. Just when I think ice cream couldn’t make me any happier it goes ahead and throws a simple flavor at me that brightened up my day. Now that’s a celebration! That’s reveling in the joy of peach ice cream simply because it’s National Peach Ice Cream Day. I did it. And if I were to travel back to the version of me from 365 days ago, the one nudging his way through the Blog Set Up page, he would be happy to know I learned to love something new today. He’s be happy I was still at this quest. He would be happy to know that the online journey he was just about to take would change his life. But I should probably warn him about the job thing that comes up on Day 8. And Trump too. He would definitely want to know about Trump. But don’t forget Saturday Night Live. There’s so many stories that my old self needs to hear.

Next up: National Sour Candy Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 348 – National Corn Fritters Day

[ed. note: this is from Sunday – I’m behind a little in posting (not celebrating).]

I just love the sound of the word fritter. I wasn’t exactly sure what a corn fritter was, but it just sounded like it was going to be delicious. My first image was something akin to a corn dog and I always get excited at the thought of a corn dog. But that’s not what a fritter is. Then I had visions of little patties chockablock full of whole corn kernels with a nicely brown outer coating fried to perfection. I think that was a little closer to what an actual fritter is, and if so, it still sounded like something I was very interested in. This would be a fun one to celebrate.

A fritter is essentially a fried batter that is sometimes filled with bits of meat, seafood, vegetables fruit or other ingredients. In this case, it’s filled with corn and like mostly everything that’s made of corn, it finds its origins with Native Americans. It was the Native Americans that figured out a way to take corn kernels (or maize) mixed with some flour and to cook them up into beautiful little fritters. They sounded pretty complex but the more I looked at the recipes, the more I thought they were really pretty simple. I decided to go with a recipe from the folks at Jiffy. Jiffy has cornered the market on boxed cornbread making. More importantly, at least to us, we use their mix every holiday to create Paula Deen’s famous corn casserole – a fan favorite on any table. The folks at Jiffy do nice things with corn, so I trusted them with my fritter needs. The recipe I found was for “Jiffy” Corn Fritters (the awful use of apostrophes is all theirs) and it looked like it could have been a recipe that came directly from the box.

I was working most of the day and I got out at about 7:45 PM which gave me just enough time to hit Clements and pick up what I needed for dinner. Essentially all I needed was a can of corn, some sour cream and a box of Jiffy. I decided to pick up a container of Lloyd’s pulled pork too, just because I felt we need some protein to go along with it and I thought the pork would be a nice complement. When I got home, I got right to cooking although I made a slight change to the recipe. The recipe had me dropping the dough into hot oil to fry. I didn’t feel like heating up oil, so I decided to pan fry it instead. I threw the griddle pan on the stove and let it heat up, then I tossed the dough together. It was super easy – you throw everything into a bowl and mix. Then I scooped it onto the hot griddle in little blobs. Meanwhile, I dropped the Lloyd’s pulled pork into a sauce pan to heat it up. It already comes seasoned in the Lloyd’s barbecue sauce but I added in some chipotle flakes and a few more seasonings to put my own spin on it.

Oddly enough, the batter that I cooked on the griddle ended up looking more like a griddle cake than it did a fritter. I was ok with that and technically, it was still a corn fritter because it was fried corn batter. It just looked like a pancake. Actually, it looked like a Johnny Cake. That’s a local Rhode Island creation that’s essentially a pancake made from corn flour (you may remember Vito from the Sopranos had a hankering for them). I can’t tell you for sure if I had made a fritter or a Johnny Cake, but either way, it worked for me. I put them on a  plate along with the pork which I topped with some fresh cilantro and some chipotle sour cream on the side. It looked pretty tasty and Lola was impressed at how fast I had cranked out this meal.

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Whatever you call it, it was fantastic. Really. Although I will say I was pretty hungry when I sat down to eat it, so that may have affected my judgement. I’ll start with the pork which was really good – nice and tender and plenty of seasoning. The barbecue sauce picked up some heat from the chipotle and cut some of the sweetness. The fresh cilantro added a touch of goodness to each bite as well and the sour cream added an element of cool to the whole dish. The fritter/Johnny Cake was nice and fried on the outside and had a crisp texture to it much like a nice pancake would. Inside is where the corn flavor jumped out at you. It had the hint of corn muffin texture to it (the Jiffy mix shining through) and the kernels of corn added little pops of fresh corn taste to each bite. The sour cream in the batter gave it a light and airy texture with some creaminess to it too. I topped the fritters with a light sprinkle of cheese which wasn’t really necessary but I was going for that Mexican flavor profile. Everything here worked really well together and it ended up being a pretty nice Sunday dinner.

We finished just in time to settle in for Game of Thrones which was back after a long hiatus. We were looking forward to the new season all week long especially after rewatching the last season in chunks throughout the week. It was good episode too – a great start – but not too much actually happened over the hour. Still, that just means more will come in the weeks ahead. Winter is coming, as they say. As for us though, we watched eagerly in content with bellies full of a great dinner. Tonight we discovered an easy new dish to make that we both became fast fans of. We will be making these again for sure. Fritters ended up being everything I imagined they would be. They may have come out looking a little different than I thought they would, but they delivered the taste and freshness I was searching for. That’s how we celebrated at our house, may it please the old gods and the new.

Next up: National Peach Ice Cream Day 

Day 347 – National Tapioca Pudding Day

[ed. note: this is from Saturday – I’m behind a little in posting (not celebrating).]

Wait a minute – we’ve been here before. We celebrated National Tapioca Day just seventeen days ago. Now it’s back? I suppose that day a few weeks ago was just Tapioca Day whereas today was National Tapioca Pudding Day. But really, what else could you do with Tapioca? That was the dilemma I had three weeks ago and why I ended up celebrating with some fresh Tapioca pudding from Dave’s Market in Tiverton. It was good. I had never had Tapioca Pudding before, so it was a new adventure for me. Now I’m a seasoned Tapioca Pudding pro. I knew the history. I knew what to expect. I knew how it would taste. Now I just needed more pudding.

Today was another long day at the Vineyard. I went in at 9 am and got home at about 7:30. I didn’t get a chance to put much planning into todays’s celebration but then again, it was going to be pudding, so I there wasn’t all that much planning to do. On my way home, I stopped at Clements. I picked up a couple of burgers to grill for dinner and then I picked up a tub of Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding. Back on Chocolate Pudding Day, I picked up Kozy Shack’s chocolate pudding and it was pretty good. They are famous for their tapioca and rice puddings, so it was even more appropriate to use them for today. When I got home, I grilled up the burgers, we enjoyed them and then for dessert, like every other eighty year old couple, we ate pudding. I served it in a bowl and put some whipped cream on top.

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I will say this, it was good pudding – dare I say better than Dave’s homemade. It was just perfectly creamy throughout with strong vanilla flavorings. The tapioca beads are still the weird element to it all. They are just there, like surprise little bursts in every bite, although no distinct flavor. It just added to the overall taste adding the texture of these tiny edible soft pearls. Lola had a taste and she likened them to eating ova. Although I don’t recall a time of her eating ova, that analogy seemed like a pretty good description. The whipped cream added extra creaminess and sweetness to every bite which was a nice touch. I’m a fan. Kudos to the Kozy Shack folks for making a unique product and doing it well.

No, today was not my biggest celebration folks, but that’s how it goes. The day itself just didn’t have any big holidays that I could celebrate and get behind, so I had to stick with the pudding. I hope you’ll excuse me if I took it easy on the day. That’s how it goes sometimes. Come to think of it, pudding is all about taking it easy. It’s a sweet, creamy food that’s easy to make and you barely have to chew to consume it. I guess if you wanted to celebrate the essence of a pudding then your celebration would have a hint of easiness to it all. Well then mission accomplished! Plus, now that my tapioca consumption has skyrocketed this month, I can say that I have helped to promote the tapioca agenda. That’s another win. All and all, it was a delightfully sweet ending to a long day and a nice easy celebration that may or may not have tasted like sweet juicy ova. I’ll take that any day.

Next up: National Corn Fritter Day 

Day 346 – National Mac and Cheese Day

[ed. note: this is from Friday – I’m behind a little in posting (not celebrating).]

Thomas Jefferson who was always reticent with the President is believed to have brought Mac and Cheese to the United States. When he was off getting high with the French where was introduced to pasta dishes and their reach cheesy sauces. When he returned to the states to see what he missed, he brought with him the recipes and pasta machines so he could recreate them at Monticello. When he was President, he served a version of macaroni and cheese at a state dinner in 1802. From there, the American love of macaroni and cheese took foot and it didn’t take long until it became part of the rich and diverse food culture of our great union. In 1937, the next big thing in macaroni and cheese came to town, this time from the folks at Kraft. They introduced their boxed mac and cheese which would feed a family of four for 19 cents. The time was at the heart of the Great Depression and Americans were drawn to this economical dinner. When the war came in the 1940s, fresh meat and dairy products were rationed to help the war effort and not readily available. This helped the popularity of the box mac and cheese to rise because Kraft Macaroni and Cheese were not rationed and were readily available. It soon became a standard for any pantry or well-stocked household. The golden age of mac and cheese was upon us.

It’s popularity stems from being a cheap product. That’s why it rose to fame, that’s why thrifty housewives made it a staple and that’s why it’s still a favorite of the proverbial college student to this day. However, when it comes down to it, we just like mac and cheese because it’s good – a guilty pleasure. Easy to make and delivers on taste. You can say what you want, but when it comes down to it, there is a fondness for that particular boxed Mac and Cheese flavor. It’s the orange cheese. The powder. We’re not sure what it is – some kind of processed cheese with flavoring, but if you mix it into hot pasta along with proper amounts of butter and milk, you get the perfect coating. Creamy, delicious and filling. Sure there are other kinds of Macaroni and Cheese out there. Specialty pastas with their hand-melted cheeses. In fact, Lobster Mac and Cheese seems to be the big trend in restaurants lately, adding chunks of whole lobster to the chef-specialty pastas. Those are all good, no doubt. However, you never forget your first love.

When I saw it was Mac and Cheese Day, I had visions of making a really fancy casserole with fresh grated cheeses, hand crafted pasta and the whole works. I’d make my own roux, add in the cheese and then fold in the pasta. Sprinkle in some seasonings – salt, pepper, maybe some garlic, a little nutmeg for depth. Then I would top with breadcrumbs and bake it so it would get a little crunchy on the outside. That sounded all well and good, but then I realized that this day should celebrate the original. The one and only. So I scrapped the plans for the casserole and simply went Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for this one. Lola was ok with that decision too. I picked up two boxes at the store. We prefer the SpongeBob Squarepants version. That’s not because we are particular fans of SpongeBob, but rather we have discovered through tireless research that the character-shaped pasta is well-suited for the cheese sauce. Each piece of pasta has a lot of nooks and crannies in it and that allows for more space for the cheese sauce to adhere to. Even though Kraft bills their original, the small tubular pieces, as “the cheesiest,” we find the character shapes better. Clements was out of SpongeBob so I opted for Star Wars mac and cheese instead. The force was with us.

When I got home, I made it. I hope you don’t really need to know how I made this because it’s the same recipe they have had on the box for years. Actually, I do finesse my version slightly by adding more butter and less milk. I like the sauce to be nice and thick and more butter helps with that. It also adds a creamer taste to it as well. It cooked up in no time and soon it was ready for serving. That’s when I came to “the dilemma.” We are usually a house that lives in simple peace and harmony, however when it comes to adding something to Mac and Cheese, our household erupts like the citizens of Anatevka in a heated mule/horse debate. I prefer to add peas to my Mac and Cheese. Lola says nay-nay to that. I just like the color, the added texture and the subtle flavor peas bring to the mix. Lola however is a purist and gets mad at the mere suggestion. In fact any time I make it, I always jest that I am about to put peas in and in that mere suggestion, Lola’s Irish starts to rise. So no peas for Lola today (I did add some to my bowl). I served Lola hers with some chopsticks. That’s her preferred method of Mac and Cheese consumption. I prefer the traditional fork (or shovel, so I can eat it faster).

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There are few meals that are more comforting than the Mac and Cheese. A simple homey favorite. All the fancy mac and cheeses can be what they want to be, but that will never quite replace the joy of the boxed Mac and Cheese. An easy recipe that almost anyone can make, an economical price point and a flavor that not only comes through but takes you back to happy memories. It’s comfort food 101. And it’s usually right there in your pantry. It goes well with lazy Friday nights catching up on Game of Thrones. It’s best enjoyed in pajamas and in bowls that fit right in the palms of your hands. It’s good with peas (shhh…don’t tell Lola). It’s just a simple joy and that is what I celebrated tonight. My R2-D2s didn’t taste exactly like the Patrick Star I had hoped for, but it did the job. It was a delicate balance of celebration today: finding the happy point between the over-the-top versions of macaroni and cheese and the classic and simple versions. I went classic, because that is more of the tradition we were celebrating today. The tradition of comfort, simplicity and joy that Mac and cheese delivers. And you know what they say about not honoring traditions: without traditions, our lives as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof.

Next up: National Tapioca Pudding Day 

Day 345 – National Franks and Beans Day

Our first vision of celebrating this day was to put the Franks and Beans (or the Beanie Weenies as Lola calls them) into the empty battery compartment of a flashlight and enjoy them that way akin to the way Bobby and Cindy feasted on them when they were lost in the Grand Canyon on The Brady Bunch. We could go on a hike through the Aquidneck Land Trust property preferably with a rolling fog on the hills and we could yell out to no one in particular, “Bobby! Cindy! Where are you?!” The beans in the flashlight was an image that has always stood out to Lola and when I mentioned Franks and Beans, that was what she wanted to do. Alas, it was too wet today for hiking so Bobby and Cindy would have to go unsearched for. They probably will get eaten by a Middletown coyote. We’ll probably find a half-chewed Kitty Karry-All doll on the rough of the 13th hole at Newport National Golf Club, a last remembrance of the youngest one in curls (cue the Brady Bunch Theme played in slow, sad tones.

Franks and beans are one of the oldest convenience foods we have dating back to the Civil War. That means old Uncle Reb was eating a can full of beans and franks sitting by the campfire on the night they drove ol’ Dixie down. That makes me think of the famous bean eating scene from Blazing Saddles when they are all sitting around the campfire eating beans (and I assume franks) and then letting them rip into the night air. As a youngster, I thought this was the funniest moment ever in cinema history. Maybe it is. However, I couldn’t help but worry that this could this be the end result of the beanie weenie dinner I was planning for tonight. Would I be voted “Worst Guy in the Cubicles” tomorrow? Would Lola, who has a meeting early tomorrow morning, be shifting in her chair throughout the conversation struggling to hold them in? Would this put in motion a series of events that there would be no return from? This was going to be a dangerous meal.

I have never eaten Franks and Beans. It has never appealed to me. It looks gross. It smells gross. But I realize that this is a classic American dish – nay, a classic New England dish – so I had to take one for the team, ozone layer be damned. My journey started at the grocery store where I scanned the baked bean section. I’ve never really spent much time here before. There are really a lot of options. Country style, Classic New England Style, Vegetarian, Maple, Pumpkin Spice. The bean scientists have been working overtime. My first decision would need to be what brand. It came down to the two big players for me: Bush’s and B&M. I have to say for a time, I enjoyed the Bush’s Beans commercials and that crazy dog, but that campaign has grown tired and so has my enjoyment of the brand. B&M, according to their label, was celebrating their 150-year anniversary plus they have roots in Maine and the great city of Portland. That pushed me towards going with them. Plus, they made Brown Bread in a can. That sealed the deal. When I spent some time working in Maine, I met a few people who had a fondness for brown bread in a can. I had never even heard of it, but apparently it’s a thing and a thing that goes well with beans and franks. It’s just what you would expect: Brown Bread (pumpernickel is the flavor, perhaps) that comes in a can, so it comes out in one round cylindrical shape with the ridges of the can engraved into the bread (kind of like how your cranberry sauce looks when you take it from the can on Thanksgiving, just in bread form). I guess this is a Maine delicacy along with Moxie, Allen’s Coffee Brandy and bright red colored hot dogs.

When I got home, Lola was on the phone. She had been on the phone for six hours straight. No Joke. In fact, she was on the phone so long she got looped back to the first person she was on the phone with. I think that’s called a tilt. In any case, that allowed me to get to cooking, if you can really call it that. I opened the can of beans and dumped them into a saucepan. Then I cut up three hot dogs (Saugy doggies – a Rhode Island classic) into bite sized pieces and tossed them in. Then I let it cook on low. I was going to let it cook for a half hour, but Lola was on the phone for 45 minutes after I got home, so I used that as my guideline. When they were ready to serve, I opened the can of bread (a sentence I have never used before), pushed out the ungodly looking loaf, sliced it and then toasted it. I put a piece on the bottom of the bowl and scooped the frank and beans on top. Then I added another piece of bread on the side.


I do not like franks and beans. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I especially didn’t like them in our kitchen. I like the franks. I could easily eat a whole bowl of franks. It’s the beans. I like beans to a be on the spicy side. The Mexican kind. The soft warm molasses and barbecue flavor of beans just isn’t my jam. I just don’t care for them. I can eat them. I didn’t spit them out or gag them down. I just didn’t enjoy it. I had the smell stuck in my nose all night. I felt it spoiled my enjoyment of hotdogs. Lola said they were ok. She kind of likes beanie weenies. It’s a taste of her childhood, plus it’s her connection to Bobby and Cindy. The bread, by the way, was awful. It was flavorless and just added an unneeded dense starch to the dish. Maybe if each piece was slathered in butter, like a pound of butter, it night be ok but otherwise, we both didn’t get the allure. We’ll leave the canned bread to the Mainers.


Today was also National French Fries Day and it was trending hard on social media. I wasn’t going to do anything for this. I was planning my franks and beans. But then I was inspired by a post from Lola’s cousin Nick who I follow on Twitter. I don’t know Nick all that well outside of having seen him at family functions, but I have connected with him through Facebook and Twitter and he is one of my favorite people to follow. He has an interesting life, he has smart ideas and he is genuinely a nice guy. In any case, he posted about National French Fries Day and unabashedly said that vinegar is the best topping for fries. Period. Vinegar on fries, malt vinegar, is a Rhode Island thing. It came here from the French Canadians who brought it to Maine and then it traveled down to little Rhody where it became the fry topping of choice. At restaurants, tables are set with ketchup and vinegar for fries. It’s weird, but it’s the RI life. When I thought about that, I realized I have never tried it. So, when I was at the store, I bought some Heinz Malt Vinegar along with some crinkle cut fries. When I was making the franks and beans, I put a big pan of canola oil on the stove, heated it up and fried up some taters. I don’t like frying at home, but it was a special day and I wanted to make sure the fries got nice and crispy. I also didn’t want to turn the oven to 450 degrees on a humid night. The fries took some time to get nice and crispy. They never got the true golden-brown color I was hoping for, but they were crisp and that was good enough. I seasoned them immediately with some salt and pepper. Then I served them with the vinegar. I was hoping to surprise Lola with a Rhode Island classic.


I did surprise Lola. She was hungry when she got off the phone and there’s nothing like having a bowl of fresh, crispy French fries waiting for you when you walk into the kitchen after an ordeal like that. She couldn’t believe I had fried them. Then I offered her the vinegar and she was less enthused. Apparently, she is the one Rhode Islander that doesn’t believe in vinegar. She had never tried it. She was always more of a seasoning and ketchup person. We gave the vinegar a try together. You know what, it’s not that bad. You’re first bite hits you with that sour vinegar taste, but it’s not too overwhelming. Then it mingles with the salt and balances out the bite. It gives the fry some depth and complexity. I understood the attraction. I could see this being a thing. I could get behind this. Would I call it my favorite fry topping ever? No, that would be cheese and gravy. But it’s really not bad and somehow, with those simple bites, in some small way, I became a Rhode Islander today. And I thank @ROJO36 for that.

I know what you’re thinking. French fries and Beanie Weenies for dinner at the Melederer household – another fine nutritional dinner. I suppose that’s a legit argument. It’s all for the quest. No matter, today I tried a few new foods. These were foods I had known about for years yet never pushed myself to try.  Today I gave them a whirl and all in all, it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t die. That’s a good day. Today was a day that what this quest was originally intended for – to try what I would not normally try. I survived, just like Bobby and Cindy.  And the Native American who found me gave me the new nickname. They call me He Who Smelt It.  

Next up: National Mac and Cheese Day 

 

 

Day 344 – National Pecan Pie Day

Wednesdays have been my hard days lately only because I have been doing double duty on these days – working during the day and then doing a shift at night. It’s really not all that hard. I’m not looking for awards or pats on the back. It just adds a layer of challenge to this celebrating thing simply by taking up a chunk of my day.  Today was no exception and when I saw it was National Pecan Pie Day, I knew right away I wouldn’t have time to make my own pie. I’ve made pecan pie before. In fact, I did it back on Day 20 of this quest for National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. I remember it didn’t come out exactly like I had hoped for. It never set correctly. I recall it was tasty, but it was a bit too boozy for me as I may have added too much bourbon. It was liquid-y too. In my mind, it tasted like failure, so I wasn’t eager to tackle another one today, especially with limited time on my hand. I had succumbed to the fact that today’s celebration would be made with a purchase at the store and I was ok with that.

Lola has made pecan pie before. She went through a whole pie phase once and she was always making homemade pie crusts and trying different flavors. I think her sister Cherie is a fan of pecan pie and that inspired Lola to make a special one for her on Thanksgiving (or maybe it was Christmas). I remember watching her make it and having the same concerns on whether or not it would set as I did. There’s a lot of liquid in a pecan pie. There’s corn syrup, eggs, milk, bourbon and vanilla. Meanwhile you are loading this filling up with pecans which, if Archimedes was right, means the buoyant solid of the pecans would be met with a force equal to the weight of the filling displaced by the weight of the pecans. It spills over. Plus, all that liquid makes it difficult to achieve that that custardy texture while baking. It happens though. If you do it right, it comes together like magic. It just takes patience and love. Lola made a good pie and I recall her eating it at our dining room table (with her homemade whipped cream) and seeing a very satisfied smile on her face. I was going to ask her if she wanted to make a pie today, but then I thought against it. She doesn’t have a lot of free time either and there are bigger fish to fry on her plate right now. But, when she reads this, she will probably be mad that I didn’t ask her. She always tries to help where she can on this quest. But a homemade pie was too much for today. We didn’t have the ingredients. We didn’t have the time. And it was way too hot to bake in our kitchen.

Gregg’s had time to bake today. You may recall Gregg’s from I went there on National Blueberry Cheesecake Day. They are a Rhode Island institution. It’s a small family of restaurants that serves up really good home-style food from breakfast to giant sandwiches to traditional dinners like turkey dinners, meatloaf and fried clams. It was always a favorite of my brother and his family. The star of the restaurant though is its dessert case where they have all their homemade goodies on display. It’s the first thing you see when you enter and even though you may be going there for a burger or a Reuben sandwich, throughout your meal you can’t stop thinking about the piece of cake you saw when you walked in. My niece was always a fan of their Death by Chocolate cake which was six layers of chocolate goodness. I was partial to their carrot cake, although I am not sure if I actually ever had one. Still, the memory of just seeing a piece of that cake still lives on in my brain. They do desserts and they do them well. They do Pecan Pie too.

There are four Gregg’s locations and as fate has it, there is one that is pretty close to my office. It’s one exit over and it is right off the exit ramp too so it is easy off and easy on. My plan was to go there, get two slices of pecan pie, and then go home. I left work a bit early so I would have enough time to get home and get ready for the night shift, so I also added in a few extra minutes of travel time for a Gregg’s stop. When I got there, their parking lot was still kind of busy for a random Wednesday afternoon. They have a special Take Out area to the side of the main entrance, so I went in that door and there was one guy in front of me buying cookies that looked really good. They have a giant dessert case in here too and all my options were lined up in front of me. The pecan pie was on my right on the very top shelf. I was in business. A manager, I assume, saw me waiting and she asked me what I wanted it. I told her and then I waited for the balloons to drop and the band to come out to celebrate my pecan pie purchase on National Pecan Pie Day. That never came. To them, I was just a regular Joe stocking up on the sweets. She probably thought I was going to go in the parking lot and eat both pieces in a crazy binge moment. It takes a few minutes to get your order ready which I appreciate. That meant that they were taking a pie and cutting to order. They put them in a square box with the Gregg’s logo so it looks like you have a nice little present. They also put a plastic ramekin of fresh made whipped cream in the box too. I appreciated that because pecan pie needs whipped cream. I was in and out within ten minutes.

When I got home, Lola had just made herself a cup of coffee and when I saw that, I asked her if she wanted a piece of pecan pie to go with it. She did and it felt good to give her a nice little sweet surprise with her afternoon cup. I only had a few minutes, so I saved my piece for later, but I put Lola’s on a plate with the whipped cream on the side for her to enjoy. She sat down at the kitchen table and started to nibble. We had about ten minutes to talk about the events of the day – more chapters in the ever-changing tale of Dan and Lola – and that didn’t seem like enough time to take it all in. Lola was eating her pie. I was changing. And big discussions were happening, but then I had to go. That wine wasn’t going to pour itself.  With a quick goodbye, I was on my way and Lola was left eating the pie. She ended up only eating half of the piece.


It was on the slower side at work and because we had a lot going on at home, I had asked earlier that if someone was going to be cut early, could it be me. I felt bad asking because others had been there since the morning, but it was one of those days you needed to speak up. I ended up getting home around 7 pm and when I got home, Lola was in the living room amidst a few boxes of forms and notebooks with all kinds of info scrawled all over them. Lola is a copious note taker. I sat down on the couch across the coffee table from her and we sat there for the next hour or so and just talked about everything going on. We got ourselves mentally prepared for the days ahead, we promised to be kind to ourselves and we talked about some creative outlets for both of us that we would help us in the long run. We are finding that time at the end of the day to decompress with each other is becoming priceless. We just need to stay connected. At some point in our discussions, as I often do, I got hungry so I went out to the kitchen and got my own piece of pie from the fridge where It was still in its neat little Gregg’s box waiting for me. I microwaved the pie for 20 seconds and then plopped on my portion of whipped cream. Then, because I wanted more, I grabbed the can of whipped cream from the fridge and added another big dollop to the plate. You can never have enough. That’s where I celebrated the pecan pie today – across from Lola who was sitting in the pile of papers that tell the story of part of our life. The pie is evidence of another chapter in that story, one with a much sweeter taste to it.

Another day, another pie. It was another day where time was a factor and I suppose in anything you pursue over a linear amount of time, time is always a factor. It’s funny to me at how the difficulty level of my quest has increased in my last month. Each celebration is becoming harder and harder to complete. I have new restraints between work and schedule, I have new concerns which take precedent over matters of celebration, I have the daily grind of it all which is wearing me down and I have the unknown of what this was all about and what it means (if anything). But then I can look at my piece of pie. Sweet, full of pecan taste, cooled with fresh cream. A simple joy at the end of the day. See the positive. Be the positive. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy it with Lola. That’s what this pie taught me today and that’s what I celebrated tonight. 


Next up: National Franks and Beans Day  

Day 343 – National Blueberry Muffin Day

Today was a day that had a few options for celebration. It was Rainier Cherry Day and because I have not yet truly enjoyed the joy of the summer cherry harvest, the thought of sitting with a bowl of cherries and enjoying their sweet, juicy flavor delighted me. I could work my way through a whole bowl without batting an eye. Maybe Lola and I could have a cherry pit spitting contest. She likes when I make games out of the ordinary events in our life and that would be fun. Plus Lola, a Tomboy at heart, would love being able to be the pit-spitting champion. She’d take it seriously, like Focker from Meet the Parents. Today was also National Mojito Day and I love getting behind a good cocktail. I am a fan of mojitos too. I have liked them since I first tried them at a Cuban restaurant in Mexico. They made them there to order with tons of fresh mint and raw sugar cane as well. The bartenders would muddle the mint like I’ve never seen, so practiced in their skill that it looked effortless. I could try to create that at home. I had rum, I had simple syrup. I just needed mint. I felt like I just made this drink though along this quest? Hadn’t I? Maybe that was Mint Julep Day? This is becoming a blur.

The other day that was being celebrated today was National Blueberry Muffin Day and although I enjoy a good blueberry muffin, I didn’t think I’d have time to do anything special for it. I could grab one at Dunkin Donuts on my way to work or even from another coffee shop along the way – there’s no shortage of blueberry muffin providers between Portsmouth and Warwick. But would that a true celebration? Do you really want to hear about how I scarfed down a blueberry muffin in my car waiting at a traffic light? Would you need to see the crumbs that would scatter across the front of my shirt? There was no pizzazz to that celebration so I was kind of pushing the idea aside. Then something happened. Today was my delivery day for my Veggie Box from FarmFreshRI – my bi-weekly delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables from the bounty of local farmers. I was expecting the box to be full of leafy greens and hardy root vegetables, which it was, but after digging through, there was also a pint container of freshly harvested blueberries. That seemed too serendipitous to ignore. I was gifted fresh local blueberries on National Blueberry Muffin Day. The gods had spoken and they wanted me to make muffins.

I found a recipe for Blueberry Muffins on Sally’s Baking Addiction website. Sally is usually a go-to baker/blogger for me and has easy recipes. She of course had one for blueberry muffins and as luck would have it, I had everything I needed in house to make them. The only thing I was missing was blueberries, and the gods had been good and took care of that for me. Now I just needed time. I got home from work around 6 pm and sat down with Lola to discuss our days. It was another long day for us. I’ve been leaving a few hints here and there, but the truth is that Lola and I are going through some stuff with banks and insurance companies and all those fun kinds of people. Because I’m at work, Lola gets stuck with the brunt of the work which means phone calls, emails, copying and all that other fun work that appeases the bureaucracy gods. That stuff gets pretty draining especially once you get caught in a circle of ignorance on the other end of the line. When I get home, we needed some time to decompress and talk things through. Today was a tough one. I suppose the highlight was the 20 minutes Lola spent on the phone with the person who on the other end of the line was fumbling through paperwork looking for the file on Lauren Miller (which if you didn’t know, is not Lola). That’s the efficiency we are dealing with in a nutshell. In any case, we needed time to talk things out, which led us into some time to eat dinner together, which then led us into time to escape in an episode of Game of Thrones. The next thing I knew, it was 8:30 and I had no muffins.

Lola tried to get me to keep going on Game of Thrones but I said I had to make the muffins. I was feeling like the old Dunkin Donuts guy – time to make the muffins. Thankfully, it was a pretty easy recipe to throw together. The bad part was it was still hot and humid out and turning our oven to 425 degrees was not ideal. But these are the sacrifices we make for the quest. It really was quick to make and I had the batter ready just as the oven preheated. Now I just had to load it into the muffin pan which is never easy, especially with a batter that’s on the thicker side. I used a scoop which was just shy of the amount I needed so then I had to go back and add more to each cup with a spoon to fill the tins up to the top. The recipe was supposed to give you muffins that heaped over the top and part of that meant filling them to the very brim. I did that and then just sprinkled some sugar on top as the final sparkly touch. They went in the oven for five minutes, then I turned down the heat and cooked for another twenty-five. When I pulled them out, they looked done and were puffed up over the pan.

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According to the recipe, I had to wait about ten minutes to try one and that wasn’t too hard. Lola had gone up to bed and I texted her to see if she wanted one. She did, with butter, so I sliced one in half, slabbed on some butter which started to melt on the warm inside of the muffin and then delivered it to Lola in bed. I thought this would be one of those recipes Lola would love because it was similar to the popovers I have made for her, and she loved those. However, she wasn’t blown away. She said they had a bit of a banana bread texture to them, and she was right. The muffin was heavier, not like the cake-like dough of a Dunkins’ muffin. It was still tasty, but it wasn’t an instant classic. She took a few more bites and she started to like it more and more. Once you got used to what kind of muffin it was, it got better. It even got good. The star was the crunchy top which had lots of sugar crystals to add sweetness to it and of course, the fresh local blueberries. Those were abundant and sweet. I may have cooked the muffins a tad too long, although I cooked them to the exact recipe. They were a tad dry which made me think they cooked too much, probably a product of the hot kitchen. Still, I will eat them gladly with my morning coffee throughout the week and beyond. Lola will too, so they won’t go to waste.

This night baking is new to me. It requires a change in mindset. You have to dig down and find a second wind to get the energy. It’s not too hard. Cooking at night is a bit cooler than cooking in the daylight. There’s not as many interruptions either. The bad part is you get tired and then you lose that desire to eat what you made. You lose the thrill of eating a fresh made baked good simply because you are too tired to care. Still, I was able to celebrate today. The blueberry muffin is a great tribute to the sweet delight of fresh blueberries. They pair well with the sweet batter and once they are baked, the berries start to break down inside the muffin giving every bite a fresh burst of fruit. It’s a pretty great little pastry and thanks to a random gift from the gods (or from my Veggie Box), my night baking ended up being a nice way to celebrate them. Even Lauren Miller would agree with that. Now let me just put you hold while I find her paperwork.

Next up: National Pecan Pie Day